After the Toledo Rockets had its opening game cancelled and decided not to re-arrange it against Stony Brook, its unlikely that many people in the college football world paid attention outside of the Rockets own fan base. But just over a fortnight later and things have transformed dramatically for the small MAC program based in Toledo, Ohio. Victory over 18th-ranked ranked Arkansas by a 16-12 scoreline was followed up by a dramatic double overtime victory over Iowa State from the Big 12.
It’s rare for a MAC team to be winning games over Power Five conference teams off the back of a strong defensive unit. Over the years we tend to see MAC teams win shootouts to beat opponents rather like Bowling Green did in their win over Maryland last week. But Toledo have given up just 32 points in their opening two games so far.
The Mid-American Conference certainly isn’t the strongest out of the Group of Five conferences. There’s certainly no argument that the American Athletic Conference and the Mountain West Conference are seen as superior at the moment but the MAC is still making its presence felt with Toledo being a big factor in that.
So how far can the Toledo Rockets go this season after such a strong start?
The Rockets final non-conference game is at home to Arkansas State who ran Missouri close as well as getting blown out by USC before beating an FCS team, so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how tough this game will be. After that they enter MAC play and with the Rockets being in the West division it means their schedule is much tougher. Their main rivals for the division title this year are Western Michigan and Northern Illinois so it’s fortunate that they got both these teams at home. While from the Eastern division they have to travel to Bowling Green who look like the best team in that division so far this year.
They could certainly make a better case to the college football playoff committee if they went undefeated than Marshall did last year before they lost to Western Kentucky. Toledo’s resume would have two wins over Power Five conference teams including a ranked team at the time from the SEC West in Arkansas. But unfortunately it’s unlikely to be enough considering Arkansas has already lost for a second time to Texas Tech and Iowa State looks like a team destined for two wins maximum this year. It’s possible an undefeated record or even one loss could put them in the conversation for a New Year’s Day bowl game which would still represent an immense achievement for head coach Matt Campbell.
PHOTO CREDIT- September 12, 2015; Little Rock, AR, USA; Toledo Rockets running back Damion Jones-Moore runs the ball for a touchdown against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the second half at War Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith, USA Today Sports